Crime Fiction Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

“My husband didn’t commit suicide. I poisoned him,” said Mary Farber to Detective Ruth Barnes a week after her husband Bruce died. Mary knew she had to protect Bruce beyond the grave in whatever way she could. Her beloved husband was a proud man; reputation was everything to him. He built a successful career as a financial advisor and served on the board of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce and the Chester County Board of Commissions for years. People in his community knew, respected, and genuinely liked him.

 When she arrived home from work a week ago, she discovered Bruce lying on the floor of their bedroom. She immediately sprang into action, called 911, and continued to administer CPR. When the medics got him to the hospital, though, he was pronounced dead. She was told he’d had a heart attack. Mary collapsed and sobbed uncontrollably.  How could she go on without her precious Bruce? He was the love of her life. During their 12 years of marriage, their love for each other never waned. If anything, it intensified. He could be a bit too introspective at times, but she knew that when she married him. Nearly every evening, they made time to enjoy each other’s company by sharing a meal, talking, or just cuddling on the couch while watching television. And in the bedroom, they could still cause thunder and lightning!

Her husband was one of the fittest people she knew. He went to the gym almost every morning and was an avid hiker, biker, and runner. His favorite food group was vegetables and salads, and he only occasionally ate dessert. How could a 39-year-old man in this good of shape drop dead? Truth be told, Mary was more apt to develop heart disease. Sure, she only 33 but was 20 pounds overweight, and her preferred foods were anything with the word sugar at the top of the ingredient list. Finally, giving into Bruce’s strong suggestion, she had recently started to walk in the neighborhood with a couple of her girlfriends three times a week, but they spent more time working their jaws than getting their heart rates up. Not Bruce though. He was serious about his exercise. How could Bruce have been the one to have had a heart attack?

           Then, Mary got her answer when she received  a request from the West Goshen police department to come down to the station. Detective Ruth Barnes closed her office door. “Mrs. Farber, the forensics report came back. I regret to inform you that your husband’s death has been ruled a suicide.”

           Mary felt like she was experiencing Bruce’s death all over. The blood drained from her face, and she felt like she was having an out of body experience. “That’s impossible! Why would he do that? He loved life.”

           “I’m so sorry, but I checked your husband’s medical records. He was on an antidepressant, wasn’t he?”

Mary took a deep ragged breath. “Yes, he takes, I mean took, 20 mg. of Prozac daily, but it was more for the stress of his job than depression. There’s no way he would have killed himself.”

“Mary, we detected a large quantity of Fentanyl in his system. You were adamant the other day that your husband barely took an aspirin, let alone illegal drugs.” Mary nodded.  “You can understand how we reached the only conclusion that makes sense, and unfortunately that is suicide. Was your husband under any additional stress lately?”

“No more than the usual everyday stress from his job.”

“Did you notice any signs of depression or unusual behavior recently?”

 “Not really.” Mary couldn’t tell the detective that sometimes she’d find Bruce sitting in his favorite chair staring into space. “Earth to Bruce,” she’d say.

Bruce would snap to and smile at her. “Sorry, just deep in thought. You know how I am.”

She couldn’t talk about all the other things she’d noticed about Bruce lately, or the cops would maintain that he committed suicide. Her husband had been edgy these days, snapped at her for no reason, then apologized later for being short with her. Numerous times in the past few weeks, she’d turn over in the middle of the night to hug him and would find him gone. Often, she’d find him reading on the living room couch or pecking away on his computer. When Mary questioned him, he just said he was having trouble sleeping. “A lot going on at work. Nothing I can’t handle though. Go back to sleep, Sweetheart.”

But, two days ago, he came out of the bathroom with red eyes as though he’d been crying. “Baby, what’s wrong,” Mary said rushing over to him.

“It’s my allergies. All this pollen has gotten the best of me. I’ll take another Zyrtec.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is? You look so sad.”

Bruce put his arms around Mary and smiled,” You’re such a worry wart, honey. Everything’s fine.” Mary supposed she was in denial about her husband being depressed, so she believed his excuses.

Abruptly, she realized how blind and gullible she had been. How could Bruce be so overwhelmed that he felt his only recourse was to take his own life? Why didn’t he talk to her?   Mary had to put those thoughts aside for now and think fast about how to protect her husband’s reputation. She couldn’t let people know that Bruce committed suicide. If she was to preserve his character, she only had one viable option. If she told the detective that she poisoned her husband, people wouldn’t think less of him. They’d think he’d had a crazy wife, but she could live without that. The authorities could believe she killed Bruce because it was on her medical records that she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder years ago. It was managed well with various medications, but no one needed to know that.  She’d tell the the detective she had been hearing voices telling her to kill Bruce , and she finally did.

She knew she wouldn’t get the insurance money, but they had enough money in their savings accounts and stocks to sustain her. She also made decent money as an assistant editor for a small publishing company; although, she’d probably lose that once she confessed to murder. Still, that was the chance she’d be willing to take. She’d find a good lawyer who would advise her to plead temporary insanity. She would most likely be committed to a mental institution for a few months, but then she’d be released, and she would live comfortably, although never happily again without the love of her life by her side.


           Bruce held the lethal dose of Fentanyl, purchased on the dark web, in his shaking hand. He knew from his research that this dose would cause cardiac arrest and death. Since Bruce never even smoked weed, and was an athlete, nobody would think to investigate a drug overdose. Besides, his father died of cardiac arrest at 60, and he certainly wasn’t a drug dealer. It was important that his death looked natural so Mary would get the insurance money. Lord knew, there wasn’t much left in their savings account or stocks. He really didn’t want to die, but he saw no other way out if he wanted his wife to continue to live comfortably. Mary didn’t know Bruce had lost his job at Swanson Financial two months ago because of embezzlement. He kept up the façade that he was still working though. On the days he went into work, he’d leave for the gym at 6:15 am as he’d always done. But instead of showering and dressing for work after his workout, he’d gotten to know all the parks and walking/running trails within a 50-mile radius of his home in West Chester, Pa. If it rained, he’d spend all his time reading under a pavilion. Then, he would change into his work attire at the end of the day. To say the least, he’d gotten to know park and fast-food restaurant restrooms better than he’d wanted to. Mary often worked from home as an editor, so on the days he worked from his home office, he’d keep his door shut, with something “work” related ready to pull up on his computer screen if Mary knocked on the door.

He’d planned on returning the money he’d siphoned from Swanson Financial, but he was caught before he was able to do that. His boss, Brett Swanson, the owner of the financial firm told Bruce he’d been more than fair letting him pay in increments, but he was done.  Bruce only had until tomorrow to pay the rest of the money back, or the Brett would prosecute. There was no way in hell he could round up that much cash to pay Swanson Financial back in a day.

Bruce had invested most of his savings and stocks, and $100,00.00 from Swanson Financial into Brismet Corporation, a semiconductor chip company. Mary didn’t know anything about any of this, of course. She had her own banking account which she used for groceries, pet care, household items, and personal needs and, most of the time, that was the only account she dealt with. She claimed to be mathematically challenged, so she left all other banking matters to him. She had no clue that Bruce hadn’t paid the mortgage for three months. Their mail never arrived before 5:00 pm, and he made it his “job” to retrieve it. So far, he’d been able to intercept the foreclosure and late bill notices before Mary could see any of them, and the phone calls always went to his cell.

 Brismet was an ·e-commerce company, that outsourced product development, material sourcing, inventory, shipping, and manufacturing. They sold their products online via an e-commerce website to customers, and a third-party manufacturer handled the order fulfillment and shipping. Initially, Brismet was doing well, but four months ago, due to supply chain shortages and rising inflation, the third-party manufacturer put all the orders on hold, tying up most of Brismet’s and, consequently, Bruce’s money. Bruce had depended on getting a hefty paycheck from Brismet at that time, so he could at least replace the money he’d “borrowed” from Swanson Financial and replace his and his wife’s savings and stocks. Then, he would start making beaucoup bucks and could finally quit working at Swanson Financial. Although he was skilled when it came to gambling with other people’s money, he hated the high stress of it all.

Once he replenished all the money he’d used to invest in Brismet, he would confess to Mary what he’d done. He’d assure her that he didn’t tell her anything about his investment into Brismet because he knew she would have been besides herself with worry and would undoubtedly freak out. He was only protecting her because he knew how tenuous her mental health could be.  Once they became multi-millionaires, though, he knew she’d eventually see that everything he’d done was to benefit them and would forgive his deceit.

 Yesterday, though, he’d drained the rest his and Mary’s savings account to pay Swanson Financial back, but it only amounted to $23,000.00. He had hoped his boss would continue accepting the repayments with the promise that he’d replace all the money by the end of the month. He felt sure that Brismet would be back in production by then.  But Brett had become an asshole and told Bruce he’d given him more than enough time and would take matters to the police unless all the money was all paid back by tomorrow.

Through tear-filled eyes, Bruce stared at the pills in his trembling hand.  He loved life, and it had been pretty good to him in many ways, but he loved Mary more. He was sure that if he went to jail, and most of their hard-earned money was gone, Mary would go off the deep end. She’d worked so hard to be mentally healthy, and he couldn’t let her spiral out of control because of him. She would grieve, but she’d persevered through her parents’ death two years ago. She was young and pretty and would soon find another man to love. Bruce had reviewed their life insurance policies, and there was enough of a payout for Mary to live comfortably for the rest of her life if his suicide wasn’t detected. Bruce would miss her terribly, but he had to protect his dear wife from beyond the grave in any way he could. Bruce was trapped in a strong box, and there was no way out other than his death, so he swallowed the pills.

September 30, 2022 19:51

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.